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Asafa Powell: Sprinting for the Record Books


Asafa Powell: Sprinting for the Record Books

Asafa Powell

Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Asafa Powell has been a key part in Jamaica’s 21st century sprint success. Although he hasn’t won a major championship, he held the world 100-meter record for almost three years, and also had his name in the record book for three years as part of Jamaica’s 2008 Olympic 4 x 100-meter relay team. As of 2012 he remains among the world’s top sprinters, even though he’s overshadowed by fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt.

Early Career:

Powell says Jamaican athletes tend to gravitate to either track and field or soccer. At first, he choose soccer (which Jamaicans, like most of the world, call football), although he enjoyed racing his friends for fun. He didn’t become seriously interested in track until he was a high school senior. It was about that time that Powell met his eventual coach, Steve Francis. Powell’s personal best in the 100 was 10.85 seconds before Francis helped teach Powell proper sprint fundamentals, including starting technique and running form.


Powell broke the world 100-meter record twice in a 2-year span. He first set the mark on June 14, 2005, in Athens, running 9.77 seconds. Tim Montgomery held the previous record of 9.78, although his time was later expunged. Powell said he didn’t notice anything special about his run until the time was posted, adding that the 9.77 time “didn’t feel real.” He ran 9.77 twice in 2006, as did Justin Gatlin, but Powell again stood alone in the record books after posting a 9.74 time in a heat on Sept. 9, 2007, it Rieti. As his countryman Usain Bolt would do the following year, Powell, slowed a bit in the last 20 meters of his record-breaking run. Powell held the world record until Bolt first broke it in May 2008.

Championship History:

Powell hasn’t enjoyed much success on track’s biggest stages. His fifth place finish, at 9.94, in the 2004 Olympics was respectable at that time. But a more mature Powell’s fifth place at the 2008 Olympics, in 9.95, was disappointing. His biggest disappointment may have been the 2007 World Championship final, in which he led most of the way before fading when he was challenged by Tyson Gay. “I panicked” Powell later admitted.

Powell did earn World Championship bronze medals in 2007 and 2009. Powell also owns one Olympic and one World Championship gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay. Powell was the gold medalist of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, won the World Athletic Final 100 meters four times, and swept the Golden League’s six 100-meter races in 2006 to earn a $250,000 bonus. In 2011 he won three Diamond League races and earned the overall series championship.


  • Height: 6-feet-3
  • Weight: 190 pounds
  • Birth date: Nov. 23, 1982
  • Hometown: Spanish Town, Jamaica
  • Personal best: 9.72 seconds (100 meters); 19.90 (200 meters); 6.50 (indoor 60 meters)


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